When it comes to personal health, anxiety can be a tricky thing to tackle. It often ties into a number of underlying issues and presents itself in a variety of ways. If left untreated and coupled with substance abuse, it can risk a person’s life. That’s why it’s important to recognize the warning signs of anxiety and take the necessary steps for recovery.
Whether you’re dealing with anxiety yourself or caring for a loved one, you don’t have to go through this alone. There are treatment options available for people dealing with both anxiety and addiction so that they can get their lives back on track. In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at the signs, symptoms, and causes of anxiety, how it ties into addiction, and what types of treatment are available.
You might already know that anxiety is a feeling of fear or unease that can range from mild discomfort to intense and debilitating panic. But what you may not know is that anxiety disorders are the most common mental health concern in the United States. About 31% of adults in the U.S. have experienced anxiety at some point in their lives, based on 2022 research. During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by a significant 25%.
There are several different types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and panic disorder. While signs and symptoms vary depending on which type of anxiety disorder is present, common symptoms include excessive worrying, feeling on edge or tense, restlessness or irritability, a racing heart rate or palpitations, and trouble sleeping.
Underlying causes of anxiety can be complex and varied but can often include genetics, brain chemistry and hormones, environmental factors, stressful life events, past traumatic experiences, physical health problems, and substance abuse. It’s also important to note that when it comes to anxiety and addiction, they often occur together. Someone who’s dealing with an untreated mental health issue like anxiety may turn to drugs or alcohol for relief from the negative feelings and emotions associated with the illness.
For anyone who might have both an addiction and an underlying mental health issue like anxiety, seeking a good treatment center in The Woodlands, TX that offers dual-diagnosis treatment programs involving a combination of therapies and support to address both mental health and addiction issues is crucial.
Anxiety disorders come in several different forms, with each one featuring its own unique set of symptoms and signs. While some of these disorder types are characterized by a heightened sense of fear or worry, others involve physical symptoms like panic attacks, stomach issues, and heart palpitations.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a common mental health condition characterized by excessive and persistent worry about various aspects of life, such as work, relationships, health, or finances. People with GAD often find it difficult to control their anxiety, even when there is no apparent reason for concern. This constant state of worry can interfere with daily activities, relationships, and the overall quality of life.
Anxiety disorders like panic disorder are characterized by frequent, unplanned panic attacks. A panic attack is a sudden surge of intense fear or discomfort that typically peaks within minutes and can include a variety of physical and psychological symptoms, such as rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, dizziness, and feelings of impending doom or loss of control.
An extreme fear, anxiety, or discomfort in social settings characterizes social anxiety disorder, sometimes referred to as social phobia. People with this disorder excessively worry about being judged, negatively evaluated, or rejected by others. This fear often leads to avoidance of social situations, causing significant distress and impairment in daily functioning.
The mental health disease known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can appear after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic incident, such as a natural disaster, major accident, terrorist attack, war or conflict, sexual assault, or the unexpected death of a loved one. PTSD affects individuals differently and can cause a wide range of symptoms that interfere with daily functioning and the general well-being.
A specific phobia is a form of anxiety disorder that is defined by a strong, illogical dread of a particular thing or circumstance. This fear is disproportionate to the actual danger posed by the object or situation, and it often leads to avoidance behaviors and significant distress in daily life. There are several types of specific phobias, which can be broadly categorized into five main groups:
Anxiety is a normal and often healthy emotion. However, if a person experiences excessive levels of anxiety on a regular basis, it could develop into a medical issue. Anxiety disorders can cause a range of physical, emotional, and cognitive symptoms.
Anxiety is often caused by a combination of biological, environmental, and psychological factors.
The development of anxiety disorders could be influenced by genetics. Scientists have found that some families are more prone to certain mental health disorders than others. Research suggests that some people may have certain genes that make them more vulnerable to developing anxiety disorders or other mental health issues.
The environment we live in can also influence our risk of developing anxiety. If someone grew up in an environment where their parents or guardians were frequently stressed out, had a substance abuse problem, or experienced a traumatic event, they may be more likely to develop an anxiety disorder later on in life. Studies show that people who grow up in toxic or unpredictable environments are more likely to develop an anxiety disorder than those who don’t.
Traumatic events can also increase the risk of developing anxiety disorders. Experiencing a traumatic event can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which is characterized by intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, and nightmares related to the experience. People with PTSD often feel anxious and struggle with persistent worry and fear.
Have you ever wondered why anxiety and substance abuse commonly co-occur? As it turns out, there is a valid reason for this phenomenon – the self-medication hypothesis.
The self-medication hypothesis suggests that people may be using drugs and alcohol to cope with their anxiety. In other words, individuals with anxiety might be engaging in substance use to try to dull their symptoms or temporarily ease the distress they experience due to their anxious thoughts or uncomfortable physical sensations.
Some signs that someone might be self-medicating include:
It’s important to note that self-medicating is a coping mechanism and not a treatment for anxiety. For long-term relief from anxiety, it’s important for individuals to engage in evidence-based treatments like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or medications like antidepressants or antianxiety medications. A qualified mental health professional can assist individuals in finding the best treatment plan.
Helping someone with both anxiety and addiction requires a compassionate and understanding approach, as well as knowledge about available resources and treatment options. Here are some steps you can take to support a loved one dealing with these challenges:
First, it’s important to understand that anxiety disorders can affect people in different ways, and that the symptoms and intensity of each disorder can vary from person to person. Learning about the disorder together is encouraged as a way of creating empathy between you and your loved one. By doing so, it can help reduce any misconceptions about mental illness or substance abuse problems.
It is also advised to know what anxiety and addiction treatment programs are available for your loved ones. The more you know, the better you will be able to provide support for their recovery.
The best way to help someone with anxiety and addiction is to offer support. Make them feel that you support them in their efforts to take the first steps toward seeking help. Encouraging them to speak with a health professional, like a licensed therapist or psychologist, can be helpful.
It can be difficult to hear of a friend or family member dealing with both anxiety and addiction—try your best not to jump to conclusions or start offering solutions right away. Instead, listen carefully and let them know that you understand where they’re coming from—this can be incredibly therapeutic for them.
In addition, try not to judge the person—understanding why someone may turn towards substances as an escape from anxious thoughts and feelings can help create an environment of non-judgmental acceptance.
Encouraging positive lifestyle changes is another excellent way of helping someone with anxiety and addiction—things such as exercising regularly or engaging in activities like yoga can increase overall well-being and reduce stress levels, which could reduce anxiety symptoms.
Anxiety and addiction are complicated problems with many layers that can be challenging to overcome. It’s important to find a wellness provider you are comfortable with. One who is willing to recognize the complexity of your needs and goals. Remember, anxiety and addiction often go hand-in-hand, and treating both issues together is important.
Magnolia City Detox offers treatment for individuals dealing with a dual diagnosis. Some of our most common anxiety and addiction treatment program options include:
With proper treatment and ongoing support, you can gain control of your life and achieve recovery. Contact us now to discuss the best treatment options for your condition!
Dr. Olaniyi O. Osuntokun is a Neurology & Psychiatry Specialist based in Conroe, Texas, and Lafayette, Indiana. He has extensive experience in treating Individuals with substance use disorders and addiction. He earned his medical degree from University of Ibadan College of Medicine and has been in practice for more than 20 years.